French Poulet du Bourbonnais achieves significant status

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The ‘Poulet du Bourbonnais’ is easily identifiable thanks to its blue card label, marked with the emblematic fleur-de-lys of the Bourbons, and its red, white, and blue riband. Photo: Bourbonnais Chicken
The ‘Poulet du Bourbonnais’ is easily identifiable thanks to its blue card label, marked with the emblematic fleur-de-lys of the Bourbons, and its red, white, and blue riband. Photo: Bourbonnais Chicken

Bourbonnais Chicken has been formally granted Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée status. This is only the second breed of French poultry to achieve this distinction after the Bresse Chicken.

The AOC is considered only when a product’s entire production process takes place in a single, precise geographical area according to acknowledged skills that give the product its unique characteristics.

It has taken almost 20 years for the ‘Poulet du Bourbonnais’ to be officially recognised by the INAO, which is the French National Institute for Origin and Quality.

Today, the ‘Poulet du Bourbonnais’ is reared for 100 days, finished on milk-enriched feed, and restricted to 500 chickens per 3,000 sqm in a specific delimited zone. It roosts in small, raised wooden chicken huts (max 70 sqm) that provide good insulation, and 15% of its daily food in the form of grass, worms, insects, and berries.

Today, a total of 9 breeders produce 26,000 ‘Poulet du Bourbonnais’ chickens each year which are processed through only 1 abattoir (Allier Volailles). The ‘Poulet du Bourbonnais’ is sold essentially through artisan butchers and poultry specialists but can also be found at the meat counter in some small local supermarkets.

A free-range chicken born in the land of the Bourbon farmlands

The history of the ‘Poulet du Bourbonnais’ began at the end of the 19th century, in the heart of the Bourbon farmland. The Bourbonnais breed was created from a cross between the white hen, present for centuries in the Allier, and the Brahma cockerel, imported from Asia in the mid-1800s.

The attributes of the ‘Poulet du Bourbonnais’ were defined and recognized by the Ministry of Agriculture in 1917: white plumage with black streaks, hardy, an early and abundant layer, good aptitude for fattening, and tender, juicy meat. Today these qualities have been carefully preserved and developed.

Berkhout
Natalie Berkhout Freelance journalist
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